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OHIO

Ohio was among the first states to authorize Governmental Electricity Aggregation (GEA) as part the Energy Choice Act of 1999 (SB3).  More than 250 communities in Ohio have switched to municipal aggregation for both gas and electricity.
HISTORY

Ohio is served by a patchwork of several electric distribution companies, electric co-ops and municipal electric utilities, as shown on this map.

Direct Energy has written an excellent 2-page history of energy deregulation and customer choice in Ohio.  The remainder of this history section is condensed from that source.

In July 1999, Ohio restructured its energy market to allow consumers to choose their energy provider, effective January 1, 2001. Customers could choose to buy energy from Certified Retail Electric Suppliers (CRES) instead of automatically receiving it from their local utility company. Four activities that had previously been performed by investor owned utilities (IOU) were separated.

  • Electric Utilities, also known as Electric Distribution Companies (EDC), would control transmission and distribution (aka “poles and wires”)

  • Marketers would sell retail service to residential and commercial customers

  • Brokers or aggregators would contract with retailers on behalf of groups of buyers

  • Governmental aggregators (County, municipal, or local community governments) would contract with suppliers for service on behalf of their residents and businesses

 

The first few years of deregulation were rocky.  Customers were hesitant to switch to new suppliers or aggregators due a lack of price differences. Meanwhile, changes in the market landscape left many without choices.  The northern (primarily urban) part of the state had more energy suppliers, while the southern (rural) part had fewer. Consequently, in areas where suppliers were sparse, customer choice was often effectively limited to community aggregation or the incumbent utility. Litigation over compliance with SB3 also delayed the transition to full market pricing.

In May 2008, Governor Ted Strickland signed Senate Bill 221 into law to revise PUCO’s regulatory structure. It required incumbent utilities to offer a Standard Service Offer (SSO) for customers who did not actively choose a retail supplier. PUCO was given broad authority to make sure certain utilities’ SSO proposals were “fair and equitable” to consumers.

SB 221 also required each incumbent utility to shed its power generation operations and become an electric distribution utility (EDU).

Aggregation in Ohio must be approved through a local ballot measure and, like Illinois, local governments facilitate the aggregation contract but do not assume day-to-day administration of the program.

Currently, Issue 1 was proposed in the Columbus City Council and is on the ballot for the November, 2020 election. Columbus Council member Emmanuel Remy says that if Issue 1 passes, Columbus would be the “third-largest municipal aggregation in the country, the largest in Ohio and the Midwest.”

GOVERNMENTAL AGGREGATION LINKS

NOPEC: Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council

SOPEC: Southwest Ohio Public Energy Council

PUCO’s interactive map of all Ohio aggregation programs

Cincinnati Energy Aggregation Program

OTHER HELPFUL LINKS

CCA-Enabling Legislation: SB 3SB 221

Issue 1 - City of Columbus – Proposed Electric Service Aggregation Program (an "opt-out" green-energy electricity aggregation plan that promises to supply 100% of the city's power needs with renewable energy by 2023-passed in November, 2020 election)

US Energy Information Administration, Ohio State Energy Profile

Power A Clean Future Ohio (advocacy group for community-driven carbon reduction)

“What is Electric Aggregation?”, educational video on Electric Aggregation in Ohio produced by SOPEC in July, 2017

Community Energy Aggregation (An overview by the Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel.)

Overview of Governmental Energy Aggregation in Ohio  (Web site of the Ohio Public Utilities Commission.)

Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (Regulator of electric utilities)

GOVERNMENTAL AGGREGATION MAP

The map below shows the communities in Ohio that were participating in governmental electric aggregation as of August 3, 2017.  Dark and light blue denote city and village aggregation, orange shows township aggregation and tan indicates aggregation at the county level.  PUCO maintains an interactive version of this map that is updated frequently, which allows you to zoom in and out and get additional information about jurisdictions that offer aggregation.

The largest aggregator in the state, Northeast Ohio Public Energy Council (NOPEC), serves over 900,000 customers in over 235 communities. NOPEC estimated in 2020 that its customers have saved more than $300 million and awarded $28 million in community energy efficiency grants since its inception in 2001. NOPEC also offers PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy Financing) and STEP (Savings Through Efficiency Program) loan financing for commercial property owners to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy improvement projects. The NOPEC Energized Community (NEC) Grant Program, in partnership with NextEra Energy, provides grants to NOPEC member communities for energy-related projects.

Aggregation efforts in southeast Ohio through the Southeast Ohio Public Energy Council (SOPEC) continue.  SOPEC currently is comprised of seventeen member communities in the Southeast Ohio region — the City of Athens, the City of Logan, unincorporated Athens County, and the Villages of Albany, Amesville, Buchtel, Chauncey, Chesterhill, Glenford, Jacksonville, Lowell, New Straitsville, Racine, Rio Grande, Shawnee, Somerset, and Trimble. SOPEC offers a STEP Loan program providing property-assessed financing for small commercial energy efficiency projects, a PACE Loan program for qualifying industrial, commercial, non-profit, and public-sector energy customers for energy efficiency projects in addition to sponsoring the development of regional energy projects in member communities. To date, SOPEC sponsored projects have primarily focused on solar PV facilities and biogas facilities.

CURRENT AND EMERGING ISSUES

Some communities offer various “green power” options through the purchase of unbundled renewable energy credits to offset the greenhouse gasses emitted by their sources of generation.  RECs from wind farms are very inexpensive in the Midwest.  For example, this 2015 press release from the City of Cleveland says that the cost to offset the GHGs for a typical residential customer was just $0.94/month.  Cleveland offered 50% renewable electricity as its default and allowed customers to opt up to 100% renewable by paying an extra $0.47/month more (on average), or to opt down to 0% renewable and saving $0.47/month. Cleveland signed a new agreement with NOPEC that will run through May, 2020.

In 2020, Columbus released an RFP which would outline how an aggregation firm could meet demand for Ohio’s largest city with an estimated 1.7 million megawatt hours of green power — including potentially constructing new local wind and solar farms. Final negotiations with the winning company are to begin November 5th and conclude with a signed contract by January 6, 2021.  In July, 2020 the Columbus City Council approved placing a measure on the November ballot allowing for the “opt out” plan. In September it was announced that AEP Energy has agreed to donate $1.5 million toward the city of Columbus’ political campaign to persuade voters to pass a green-energy electricity aggregation program in November, and voters overwhelmingly approved the plan (Issue 1). AEP Energy has mentioned previously that it will build or be the contractor for about $1 billion in new Ohio wind and solar generation, with plans to complete that work by the end of 2022, if possible. That power will be fed into the grid in equal amounts to Columbus’ total electricity load, giving the city the claim to being 100% green-powered.

House Bill 178, which would require nearly 2 million Ohio residential customers to pay up to $1,000 each to subsidize FirstEnergy Corp.‘s aging nuclear plants, was introduced on April 10, 2017. The Chairman of the Ohio House Public Utilities Committee has suspended further hearings, and a vote, on the proposed bill. The discussion of subsidies for nuclear generation and 1950s-era coal plants is expected to continue.

Ohio’s net-metering rules appear destined for the State’s Supreme Court as utilities and their opponents dig in against each other over proposed changes. The disagreement over how customers with solar panels should be compensated for electricity they generate was on display in the Spring of 2018 before the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. Among the more contentious changes is a section that limits the part of a customer’s bill that can be offset by solar generation.

FAST FACTS
  • NOPEC has saved its customers more than a quarter billion dollars since 2000.

  • Ohio’s alternative energy portfolio standard is 3.5% in 2017 and 12.5% by 2027.  See this page for more details.

  • In 2015, 59.1% of Ohio’s electricity was generated by burning coal, down from 86% in 2010.  23.2% came from natural gas and 14.3% from nuclear.  Renewables accounted for 2.3% and petroleum for 1.1%.

  • Ohio’s largest wind farm is Blue Creek, with 152 turbines rated at a total of 304 MW.

  • The state’s largest solar PV plant is the Wyandot Solar Energy Generation Facility, which is rated at 12 MW.

  • Perrysburg, Ohio is home to one of the largest solar PV manufacturing plants in the US, operated by First Solar, Inc.

  • Ohio maintains a public Do Not Aggregate list for customers who do not want to be “opted in” to a GEA, but few people have registered themselves on it.

LEGISLATION (PARTIAL LIST)
  • SB 3 (1999) restructured the energy market and gave residential and small business customers the ability to choose their supplier. It enabled Certified Retail Electric Suppliers (CRES) to sell directly to customers or to aggregators like NOPEC.

  • SB 221 (2008) required utilities to support large-scale municipal aggregation.

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